Holcim Costa Rica: Construyendo Juntos.

Description

Holcim Costa Rica conducted a study on the socio-economic situation around its plants in 2007 that revealed conditions of extreme poverty as well as other situations of great social vulnerability. The company management and employees of Holcim Costa Rica decided to become active. In 2008, against the background of the economic crisis and its impacts, Holcim Costa Rica launched several short and mid-term measures to fight extreme poverty. A special focus was laid on adequate housing.

As an immediate action, the volunteering program “Construyendo Juntos” was launched. Holcim Costa Rica defined three criteria for its volunteering program:

  1. Volunteers have to respond to a previously identified, real issue. Volunteering is not about entertainment for the volunteer, but has to target the remediation of a pressing problem, measurable by clearly defined indicators.
  2. The volunteer has to work towards positive change and the goal of the activity has to be legitimate. Beneficiaries have to be in favor of the activities and the volunteer has to be in the condition to make a significant contribution.
  3. Volunteers must not pursue any self-interest in their activities.

Objectives

The program rests on four pillars that each has clearly defined objectives:

  1. Economic support: Eradicate slums by providing people with rented houses and basic equipment (beds, kitchen, refrigerator, washing machine) until they can afford their own house (2010-2011).
  2. “Godfather” and “godmother” program: Accompany co-workers in need to make sure they achieve their goals and support them in saving $1000 for the initial credit to buy a house.
  3. Accounting training: Train co-workers in the basic principles of accounting and finance, enabling them to better manage domestic finances and thus enhance the family’s quality of life.
  4. Access to food: Ensure decent living conditions and lifting families above the line of extreme poverty and poverty (special cases) by distributing food.

Activities

In a short time, 192 Holcim Costa Rica employees (17% of the total workforce) enrolled in the program. In the course of “Construyendo Juntos”, 26 employees engaged as “godfathers” or “godmothers” and helped their co-workers improve their quality of life. Furthermore, 31 employees were certified as trainers in “Financial Health” workshops and subsequently assisted co-workers in finding their way out of debt and financial mismanagement.

In terms of economic support, $74,000 were collected and invested in adequate housing for families in need. Half of this amount was donated by Holcim Costa Rica and the other 50% was raised by employees. On top of that, employees distributed 550 food baskets in 2009 and 31 baskets per week throughout 2010.

In order to further the high standards of its volunteering program, Holcim Costa Rica promotes meetings among the volunteers. These events allow volunteers to exchange experiences, reflect about their work and thus promote responsible and participatory citizenship for positive change.

Results

“Construyendo Juntos” has effectively addressed the precarious socio-economic situation around its plants and significantly improved the living standards of its employees in need. From the 7 families of Holcim Costa Rica employees that lived in extreme poverty in 2007, none remained in this dire condition in 2009. The number of poor families was reduced by half in the same period of time, from 112 to 62.

All 31 families that had been living in slums in 2007 achieved access to adequate housing by 2009, and one family already bought their own house. While 198 families had lived in risk zones in 2007, only 30 remained in these precarious conditions in 2009. The indebtedness of employees could be cut from more than 30% (among almost half of the employees) to an average 15%.

January 2011